Christianity 201

June 20, 2021

God’s Honor and Our Spiritual Welfare

This is an excerpt from The Root of Righteousness by A. W. Tozer, as posted by a Presbyterian Church in Singapore, 9 years ago. If you’re not familiar with the co-founder of the Christian and Missionary Alliance denomination, this video devotional we posted 7 years ago contains a link to a biographical article.

The Sanctification of Our Desires

In nature it is easy to watch the activity carried on by desire. The very perpetuation of the various species is guaranteed by the presence of desire, and each individual member of each species is sustained and nourished by the natural operation of desire. Every normal creature desires a mate, and so the perpetuation of life is achieved. Every creature desires food and the life of each is supported. Thus desire is the servant of the God of nature and waits on His will.

In the moral world things are not otherwise. Right desires tend toward life and evil ones toward death. That in essence is the scriptural teaching on this subject. Whatever a man wants badly and persistently enough will determine the man’s character. In the Pauline epistles the gravitational pull of the heart in one direction or another is called the “mind.” In the eighth chapter of Romans, for instance, when Paul refers to the “mind” he is referring to the sum of our dominant desires. The mere intellect is not the mind: the mind is intellect plus emotional tug strong enough to determine action.

By this definition it is easy to understand the words of Romans 8: 5-7,

Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will.

When our dominant desires are bad the whole life is bad as a consequence; when the desires are good the life comes up to the level of our desires, provided that we have within us the enabling Spirit.

At the root of all true spiritual growth is a set of right and sanctified desires. The whole Bible teaches that we can have whatever we want badly enough if, it hardly need be said, our desire is according to the will of God.

The desire after God and holiness is back of all spirituality, and when that desire becomes dominant in the life nothing can prevent us from having what we want. The longing cry of the God-hungry soul can be expressed in the five words of the song, “Oh, to be like Thee!” While this longing persists there will be steady growth in grace and a constant progress toward Christlike-ness.

Unsanctified desire will stop the growth of any Christian life. Wrong desire perverts the moral judgment so that we are unable to appraise the desired object at its real value.

As Christians our only safety lies in complete honesty. We must surrender our hearts to God so that we have no unholy desires, then let the Scriptures pronounce their judgment on a contemplated course. If the Scriptures condemn an object, we must accept that judgment and conform to it, no matter how we may for the moment feel about it.

God is always glorified when He wins a moral victory over us, and we are always benefited, immeasurably and gloriously benefited. The glory of God and the everlasting welfare of His people are always bound up together. The blood of Jesus Christ will cleanse not only actual sins which have been committed, but the very inward desires so that we will not want to sin. Purified desires will tend toward righteousness by a kind of gently moral gravitation. Then it can be said that we are “spiritually minded.” A blessed state indeed, and blessed are they that reach it.


Other Tozer readings here at Christianity 201:

November 20, 2016

The Will

by Russell Young

It is clear from the Word of God that a person’s desire should be to do the will of God (Mt 7:21, 12:50) and he is working in the believer to achieve that end. “For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” (Phil 2:13 NIV) Since this passage is often misrepresented, it needs to be made clear that “God is working in you” so that you will choose to act in accordance to his good purpose—to will–, not that God is unilaterally accomplishing his purpose through you by making you will to do it. That is, the Father and the Spirit are working towards disposing you to do their will, but they are not removing your right to make your own decisions or to choose your own path.

In the Old Testament dispensation, and certainly in the Exodus, Jehovah stressed through Moses the need for his chosen people to do his will, to be obedient to him.  He called them rebellious because they refused to comply. God’s desire for obedience has not changed.  When a person clings to the dominance of his or her own desires and shunts God aside that person dismisses the need for obedience and is rebellious in the Lord’s eyes.

At first glance the concept of the will is intuitively understood.  To “will” means “to want” to do something.  The Merriam-Webster’s Deluxe Dictionary states the will is “(a) mental powers being manifested as willing, choosing, desiring, or intending, and (b) a disposition to act according to principles or ends.”   The Greek word for will is ‘thelo’ which means “to delight in:-desire; be disposed, intend, and please.” (Strong’s Greek Dictionary) A person’s will is asserted when he or she manifests his or her mental powers in order to act according to their own ends or principles.

It is in understanding how the motivation to want or to delight in, etc., and how that motivation is executed, particularly as it relates to doing God’s will, that provides enlightenment concerning the doing of God’s will.

A person’s will or disposition to his or her own ends guards the Holy Spirit from entering the soul of people and guards the soul from being influenced, or not, by the natural spirit of people or of the Holy Spirit. The functioning of a person’s will changes when a new “end” or desire is brought about through their knowledge of God and of a better hope. Thus, the spirit/Spirit cannot function unless the soul (the will is a part of the soul) permits it.

The hope of humankind rests in God’s initial grace and mercy through the revelation of his majesty, glory, and love without which the human spirit would remain wretched and hopelessly lost, bound in the lies of the prince of this world.  It is the realization of God’s mercy and grace, and the work of his Spirit, as well as an appreciation of the eternal joy that awaits the repentant sinner that provide the motivation for obedience to God in a person’s life.  It is at this point that the believer’s “end” should truly be to please his redeemer as an act of love through obedience and to die to his or her own interests.

The will is the aspect of a person’s being that allows for the execution of all bodily action that is not autonomic in nature.  For the will to execute an action, it must be moved, convinced, or motivated by the mind to that action.  That motivation is related to a person’s accumulated knowledge or convictions which assess the probable outcome to determine whether it is good for the achievement of a person’s “ends” or not.  The Holy Spirit has power in this regard.  He convicts, brings remembrance, guides in all truth, reveals truth, teaches, leads, directs, testifies, guards, speaks through people, provides comfort, brings righteousness, peace, joy, and hope to the believer and brings glory to God.

The will also operates by command or obligation.  That is, the will does not operate at its own directive but is directed by the mind in the pursuit of the person’s interest, goal, or “end.”  The body can make demands to ensure comfort, pleasure, or survival, but the body cannot communicate with the spirit of a person except through the soul and the soul cannot ‘will’ except through the persuasions of the prevailing spirit/Spirit.

The source of motivation for the sinner should be quite different from that of the redeemed.  The motivation of the sinner’s will is through his or her senses and reasoning which has been distorted by the lies of the evil one and through faulty knowledge and errant principles; whereas, the motivation of the believer needs to rest apart from his or her flesh—which is to be considered to be dead—and to be grounded in truths obtained from the knowledge of God’s Word as impressed by the Spirit.  Considering this, it becomes easier to discern the spirit/Spirit that is prompting the will.  When senses are prompting an action through an unregenerate or rebellious soul, it is the will of the old nature at work; when the Godly instructed intellect prompts the will of the soul bent on obedience it is the Spirit that is at work.

The knowledge that assesses the outcomes and motivates may come through the senses–may have been gained through experiences as a person interacts with the world–or it may come from a person’s intellect as developed through study or life experiences.  Memory and reasoning also impact a person’s knowledge base and affect will.  Recall brings attention to past experiences and reasoning, or rationalizing may alter or put emphasis on certain aspects of a person’s knowledge base. Study, prayer and others can influence a person’s knowledge base and reasoning.

God works to dispose a person to honour and obey him, but since that one still possesses the evil spirit, and since he or she may still be enticed by its persuasions and those of the evil one, that one may will to act contrary to the Lord’s interests for him or her.  The will is under the authority of the mind of each person to control and to pursue his or her own ends.  Humankind has been given a free will or the right to choose his or her own sovereign…either God or the evil one.  Those who are led by the Spirit to do God’s will, will reap eternal life; those who are led by the evil nature will be destroyed. (Gal 6: 7─8)

eternal-salvation-russell-youngRussell Young’s book is available now in print and eBook.  The title is Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay! You’re Okay!” Really? It is available through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; and in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.  9781512757514 $17.99 US